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Petition Don’t allow the use of externally-set exams for 2021 grades

Students this year are severely underprepared for any form of externally set examination, even if these are sat in informal conditions. Guarantee that only teacher assessed grades will be used in awarding A Level and GCSE grades in 2021.

More details

Following the announcement of the cancellation of this year's examinations in England for A Level and GCSE students, there has been speculation of externally-set 'mini tests' for use in awarding teacher assessed grades at the end of summer.

Students have faced significant disruption to learning and must not be further disadvantaged by the use of examinations in any form, such as the 'mini tests' proposed by Ofqual. These would only further existing inequality.

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Government responded

This response was given on 15 March 2021

Student’s will be awarded grades determined by their teachers based on a range of evidence. Teachers will be supported with guidance and materials to help them make judgements.

Read the response in full

Students have worked hard in preparation for their exams this year and teachers have gone to enormous lengths to provide high quality remote education.

Given the ongoing disruption to education caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we announced in January that GCSE, AS and A level exams will not go ahead as planned this summer.

The interests of students are at the core of these decisions. Our priority is to ensure all those who were due to take exams in 2021 have the best possible chance to show what they know and what they can do, enabling them to progress to the next stage of their education, training, or employment.

Students will receive grades determined by their teachers, with assessments covering what they were taught, and not what they missed. Teachers have a good understanding of their students’ performance and how they compare to other students this year and in previous years.

Centres will decide what evidence they wish to use. Centres should aim to use high quality evidence that clearly relates to the exam board specification, in terms of both content and assessment approach. Teachers can use evidence from across the duration of the student’s course, to determine their grade. This includes non-exam assessments, mock exams, in-class assessments, or responses to exam board assessment materials. Work produced outside of the school or college environment, for example, at home, can be included as evidence to support a teacher’s judgement.

Exam boards will provide optional assessment materials to support teachers in making their decisions. Exam boards will provide sets of questions organised to help teachers quickly find questions in the topics they have taught. There will be a combination of published and unpublished questions, with a proportion of unpublished questions in all subjects. Teachers will have flexibility to choose questions and topics in line with what has been taught, and they will mark these assessments themselves using exam board provided mark schemes.

The use of the materials provided by the exam boards is optional, and teachers will have flexibility over how many of the questions they use with their classes.

Assessment materials are just one way for students to show what they know and can do – they are one element of the overall approach to gathering evidence of a student’s performance. The outcome of these assessments, where used, will make up one part of a student’s final grade.

These assessment materials will look and feel very different from exams: they are not (and will not feel like) exams – there will be no specific, set window for administering these materials, unlike an exam that is sat at the same time by students across the country and they will not be required to be administered in ‘exam conditions’.

The Department knows there has been differential lost education, as some students have suffered more disruption to their education than others. Because of this, students will only be assessed on the content they have been taught.

We are committed to working with parents, teachers and education providers to develop a long-term plan to make sure that students have a chance to make up their education. We have appointed Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner to advise on this plan.

More immediately, we are making available a further £700m to put in place a range of additional measures to give early years providers, schools and providers of 16-19 education the tools they need to target support to their students. This package will build on the £1bn catch up package announced in June 2020 and form part of the wider response to help students recover their lost education over the course of this Parliament.

A range of high-quality online resources will be available for all teachers and pupils, starting from the summer term and throughout the summer holidays, provided by Oak National Academy, to help give pupils the confidence they are ready for the next academic year. We are also funding a short, focussed summer school offering a blend of academic study and enrichment activities with additional details on this due to be provided by the end of March.

Department for Education

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Other parliamentary business

Government update on summer 2021 qualifications

On Thursday 25 February, the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson MP gave a statement to the House of Commons on education recovery and qualifications. In his statement he described how grades for qualifications including GCSEs, A-Levels and BTECs in England will be awarded this summer.

The Government have announced that students, including those taking some vocational qualifications, will receive grades determined by their teachers. Teachers will have the option of using questions provided by exam boards.

Find out more about how this will work:

Read the Government statement here:

Read a blog from the Chief Regulator of the exams watchdog Ofqual, with more detail about the arrangements, here:

What is a Minister? 

Ministers are the MPs and members of the House of Lords who are in the Government. They are appointed by the Prime Minister and each given a specific area of government policy to oversee, for example education, health and social care, or national defence. Some senior Ministers are also referred to as Secretaries of State.
Ministers speak on behalf of the Government during parliamentary debates and must answer questions put to them by other MPs or members of the House of Lords. 

What is a ministerial statement?

Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of MPs, often at short notice. You can find out more about them here:

Education Committee to hold session on student grades

The Education Select Committee has announced that it will be holding a meeting on 9 March to consider the new arrangements for determining student grades. The Committee is a cross-party group of MPs which scrutinises the work of the Department for Education and is independent of the Government.

It will hear from Ofqual and the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb MP. You can find out more about that session, and the topics it is likely to cover, here:

Find out more about the Education Committee:

The Education Committee is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

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